Posted: Tue 29th Nov 2022
Enterprise Nation is one of the small business support providers tasked with delivering voluntary mentoring as part of the government's flagship Help to Grow: Management Course.
The programme is a 90% government funded, 12-week course with a combination of online sessions and face-to-face learning, delivered by business schools. It is open to businesses with five or more employees.
Here, we talk to Tanya Petherick, one of the voluntary mentors involved with the course. As well as discussing her professional background, Tanya shares valuable insight into business mentoring and the many benefits it can bring.
I was a late starter in terms of career development. I did an EU-funded college course in marketing, exporting and French to help businesses benefit from the UK's membership of the EU. The French element involved spending six weeks studying in Paris. I didn't go to university and spent my early- to mid-20s travelling and working abroad.
I moved to London with the intention of starting a career, but at 28 I worried I was too late. My peers were starting to get good, well-paid jobs. I found a great job with a US-based software company. I was employed as the office administrator, promoted to office manager within weeks, then offered the marketing manager role after eight months. By the time I left, I was responsible for the European marketing team.
I had a year in marketing where everything I touched turned to gold. I wasn't sure how I could make it better, so reverting to form, I left the job and went travelling to Central America. Upon my return, I started to help my sister with her company, which provided school-aged childcare.
Our parents ran their own business, so I was excited to be running a company with my sister. We grew the business from a bedroom operation to one employing over 150 people when we sold it in December 2019. My focus within the business was strategy, marketing, HR, accounts and customer service.
I now have a blended career, providing marketing for small businesses and creating inspirational conferences for the school-aged childcare sector.
In short, I love talking about business and I enjoy helping other people be successful. I've mentored members of my team for many years and found the process immensely satisfying.
Since selling my business, I've found myself helping friends and acquaintances develop their businesses. The Help to Grow: Management Course felt like a natural progression for me. I'll get so much satisfaction in helping my mentees to grow their businesses.
Listening and using business expertise to really understand issues. And asking good questions to help the mentee uncover solutions to their challenges.
A mentee needs to be able to trust their mentor. When mentoring, I've found that I'm party to confidential future plans and detailed financial analysis, so trust is crucial. I'm also asking mentees about their weaknesses, so they have to feel the environment is safe and supportive to answer these sorts of questions honestly.
This is a difficult question. At the most pragmatic, anyone could become a mentor, but they might not be good!
While I'm sure, given time and experience, that anyone could become a mentor, I'd say that any good mentor must possess the right interpersonal skills and business understanding and expertise.
It's really important. I'm lucky to have had a formal business coach and mentor, and informal mentoring relationships with peers. Being able to discuss business issues with other people who understand them is invaluable.
Plus, it can be lonely as a business owner. Sometimes you have to make tough decisions, decisions that your team may not get behind or support. Talking those situations through with others in a non-judgemental environment is very liberating.
I get huge job satisfaction from being a mentor. Not only that, but I've learnt from my mentees as well. There are so many different ways of conducting business and resolving challenges that it's interesting to uncover different approaches. Furthermore, I get personal satisfaction from doing a job well and knowing that I've helped another organisation.
The best thing is without doubt meeting inspiring business owners who are keen to grow their ventures. The worst is that as a mentor you can't just provide solutions. I'm very solution-focused and sometimes have to sit on my hands and guide the mentee, who may choose to resolve their challenge completely differently from how I would have done it.
It's a fantastic programme. I'm on the advisory board of the School of Business and Law at the University of Brighton. I helped the university achieve the small business charter that it needed to become part of the Help to Grow: Management Course.
As soon as I saw the details of the course, I could see how valuable it was. I have an MBA and I think the course takes all the bits of my MBA that were really valuable and provides them to students in really actionable ways. I'd love to see the programme continue for many years as I think it'll have a profound impact on SMEs.
As part of the Help to Grow: Management Course, you have access to 10 hours of one-to-one support with a business mentor who has a good understanding of the role of the mentor and the course. Start searching for your perfect mentor now.
Being a mentor goes far beyond the rewarding feeling of 'giving back'. There are a range of personal development benefits that mentors gain from the experience.
Become a voluntary mentor for the Help to Grow: Management Course and commit 10 hours over 12 weeks to support businesses with their growth action plan. Sign up today
The national mentoring element of the Help to Grow: Management Course is being delivered by a partnership of Newable, Enterprise Nation and the Association of Business Mentors on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.